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Sweeter, funnier, and confidently calmer than its predecessor, Shrek 2 shows the ’toonsmiths at DreamWorks creeping closer to all-around Pixar perfection. Whereas the original ogre-with-a-heart-of-mold smash was hamstrung by occasionally flat graphics and a not-so-subtle bitterness (Lord Fuckwad, anyone?), the Mother Goose–ruffling sequel is a Skittles-colored, good-natured joy straight on ’til happily ever after. Following an opening montage at Hansel’s Honeymoon Hideaway, the titular beastie and his gone-green princess bride, Fiona, journey to the Hollywood-esque Far Far Away—complete with stretch carriages and a Sleeping Beauty–bashing Joan Rivers—to meet her parents. Although the CGI cast and scenery have been retooled with near-claymational 3-D presence, the filmmakers forgo showing off the eye-popping technology and instead go for a joke-driven Guess Who’s Farting at Dinner? True, broguing Mike Myers and whining Cameron Diaz are distracting vocal talents as the couple whose affections are tested, and John Cleese and Julie Andrews aren’t given much to do as her disapproving folks. But that just forces the filmmakers to hand the movie over to the more-than-supporting cast. As motormouthed sidekick Donkey, Eddie Murphy is allowed to be funny again, riffing on his own classic comedy routines (“Lillian!”) and even spoofing his iconic stroll down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills Cop. Ab Fab’s Jennifer Saunders, a bitchy but incredibly sexy Fairy Godmother who wants son Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) to have Fiona, scores a rollicking musical number that puts a saucy spin on “Be Our Guest.” (Finally, angry

animated furniture!) And Antonio Banderas greases up his Latin smarm as the scene-swiping Puss in Boots, a self-cleaning assassin hired to snuff out Shrek. DreamWorks is so confident in this charmer that not only is Shrek, well, not Shrek for half the flick, but the cutest cross-marketing critters are saved for the credits. Let’s just say that Donkey and big-boned gal Dragon are parents now—and that their fire-breathing kiddies are more adorable than anything in Finding Nemo. —Sean Daly